Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Izena 88

Sunday was the big day. The day I had been training for for months. OK, not really. I had registered months ago with the intent of training consistently, but then got distracted with things like a trail marathon in Mongolia and going back to the states to visit family and friends. Now don't get me wrong. I wasn't just sitting around doing nothing for the last few months. I actually exercised a lot, just not for a long distance triathlon.
Exactly how long, you ask? Izena 88 consists of a 2K (1.2 mile) swim, a 66K (41 mile) bike, and a 20K (12.4 mile) run. With those distances you can understand why I was getting a little nervous. Before the race I completed exactly 5 bike rides with my clip-in pedals and 2 recent open water swims. I just had this belief that I would finish the race. My friend Kathleen and I joked that no matter how hard it was that nothing could be harder than Mongolia. She had completed Izena multiple times and I just kept hoping she was right.
Along with general nerves for the race, I was also nervous about the ferry ride between islands. It's not like the ferries I took in the Philippines that were so overloaded I was nervous the boat would sink, but a ferry that was out in the ocean where the rolling waves would be mocking my tendency towards motion sickness. Seriously, I could get sick on the backyard swing if Monica pushed it crooked.

So it was with some trepidation and a dose of Bonine that I boarded the ferry. I was actually feeling pretty confident because every time I get on a boat I am able to convince myself that something has changed and I won't get sick (I also convince myself that I'm totally going to win the lottery every time I buy at ticket). Well, we're still not lottery winners and I still chum the waters on ferry rides. The water was not rough, but there were big, rolling waves that had me running starboard. Luckily, as soon as I'm on solid ground I'm good to go again. Plus, I had the bonus of a great reception when we reached the Izena port.

I know it's obvious, but triathlons take a lot more planning than a road or trail race. There are three events to plan for and when you're going to a tiny island in the middle of nowhere you really can't afford to forget anything.

Like I mentioned in the last post, I had made a list and obsessed over it for days. It absolutely worked! I had everything I needed and all of my transitions went smoothly on race day. The only thing I would have done differently is I should have applied more sunscreen to my shoulders before the run portion. Live and learn.
After the ferry ride and packet pick up Saturday was spent relaxing. I rode one lap of the bike course, attended a friendship ceremony with local kids at the gym, drove the run course, and ate a fantastic pasta dinner. I hit the hay early because Sunday's wake up call was at 0430!

My bike's slot in the transition area.

We woke up and had a great breakfast, took our second transition bag (everything we would need for the run portion) down to T2 (transition 2), got dressed and took our bikes and T1 bags down to the swim start.
After racking my bike and laying out some of the gear I would need to go from being a swimmer to a biker I headed to the check in. In triathlons you get your number drawn on your arms. So 242 was written on both biceps, I handed in my questionnaire stating I was healthy, and received my timing chip that I attached to my ankle.
Amazingly, I was pretty calm before the race. I don't know if it's because I realized there was nothing I could do at that point or if I am just getting more comfortable racing, but I love the feeling of calm that I've had lately.

All race photos are courtesy of my friend Christian who cheered, supported, and made the race so much easier!
For the 2K swim we did two 1K laps. I found a rhythm right away and had a great count going on in my head. The water was calm and I felt very even. I was one of the few without a wet suit and while I know it helps your buoyancy I really like the freedom of just wearing a suit (and I don't know if I'm into tris enough to make that monetary commitment). The course was like a big triangle and it was pretty good except on the turns. At the turns things would get congested and people started running into me, over me, onto me. It was crazy and it made me want to kick someone in the face, but Kathleen had told me to conserve my legs for the bike and run so I just mentally let them have it.
I was more than happy with my swim time. When I'm on my own swimming in the pool I usually swim 1600m in around 40 minutes. Somehow I swam the open water 2K (really more than that because I got way off course the second lap) in 42 minutes and change! Yeehaw!

My transition times were a little slow because I was trying to be thorough and didn't want to forget anything. I think T1 was about 6 minutes and T2 was about 5. I'm still pretty happy with that though because on the course there was never anything I wish I had taken (besides sunscreen).
The bike was the scariest part for me. I am pretty inexperienced. I was scared of falling, but maybe even more scared of getting a flat tire. I know that sounds crazy and Chris had given me multiple tutorials, but it wasn't something I wanted to face on race day. Luck was with me. I had a pretty perfect ride.
The 66K ride consisted of 5 loops around the island. The views were spectacular, but I really tried to focus on riding. I was told by more experienced triathletes that the bike is the place where I should focus on getting some calories in. During the 41 mile ride I ate 3/4 of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and 2 fig newmans. I also drank over a liter and a half of water and about 32 ounces of the G2 Gatorade. I loved the grape flavor and was impressed at my ability to drink and ride at the same time.

The bike was the most painful portion for me. While I've ridden a little over 30 miles before, I usually stop midway and look at the scenery. I've never ridden 41 miles at a good clip with no breaks. My lower back and in between my shoulder blades definitely felt it. I finished the bike in about 2:33 and averaged 16.4mph. Again, I was happy because I was planning on closer to 3 hours.
At this point I might have started to get a little cocky. You know, not out loud, but in my head. Izena has a 7 hour time limit. Originally, I was just hoping to finish before the cut off and if I had to I planned on being an unofficial finisher if it took me more than 7, but then something amazing happened. Even with my slow transitions, I was starting the run at about the 3.5 hour mark. Officially finishing was in the bag. Instead of accepting that, my mind started calculating a 6 hour finish. Why not? I had 2.5 hours to complete a 20K. That distance usually takes me 2 hours or under and I figured even with tired legs I could do it in 2:15 or 2:20. Sounds good, right?
The run is two 10K laps. The first 2K of each lap is uphill. I've got to say when you get off your bike after 41 miles that is a pretty rude introduction to the run course. However, it wasn't the hills that got me. My legs felt ridiculously strong. What got me was the heat. Holy moley, the heat was brutal! The temps were around 90 degrees and the humidity was high as well. I've never run in heat like that. The only thing I could think of to compare it to was when Chris and I played a frisbee tournament in Savannah and the temps were over 100. It just knocks the fight right out of you.
Somehow, despite the heat, I still felt good mentally. I knew I would make it through, even if it involved some walking. The folks of Izena know how to run a race. They had aid stations every 2K stocked with bananas, oranges, salt, snackies, water, cola, and Aquarius (Japanese Gatorade). I don't know how many times I said "mizu o kudasai" (water please). The best part of the aid stations were the water buckets. Each station had huge trash cans filled with ice and water. They were manned by kids with huge ladles who would pour beautiful, glorious, life-saving, icy water over your head. It really did keep me going. They also passed out sponges dipped in ice water to take with you. I traded out a new one at every station and kept it tucked in the back collar of my shirt.
Speckled throughout the bike and run course were spectators. Izena is a small island and this is a big event for them. I would bet that 90% of the locals were out cheering on the course at some point. They especially love seeing American women competing so I got many enthusiastic "Ganbatte!s" (You can do it!). I absolutely loved the spirit of Izena.
The running course was inland and a lot of it wound through fields of crops. Wind and shade were limited. I was a little frustrated that my legs felt so good, but I was still limited by the heat. I actually ran more of the second lap than the first. Every once in a while there would be a few seconds of cloud cover and a little breeze. It made a huge difference.
Just as my energy started to dip, it was boosted when "You Know I Like My Chicken Fried" came on my mp3 player around the 16K mark. This song has special meaning for me and my running partner Tiffany. Just hearing that song put her there with me and I could hear her say "shuffle if you have to". It kept me going for the next couple K.
Then just as I made the final turn that would take me into the track to the finish line Bon Jovi's "Bad Medicine" came on. My running partner from England, Mandy, is the world's biggest Bon Jovi fan and I could feel her there next to me helping me push out the last couple hundred meters.

By running a 2:38 20K I missed my secondary time goal by 5 minutes and came in at 6:05! I am completely satisfied with that! Booyah!
It was hard, but I finished and more importantly I stayed positive the whole time. Somehow I knew I could get it done.
Anyone wondering what your feet might look like if you dump water on your head every 2 kilometers for 20 kilometers? Well, here's your answer:

Pretty, huh?
Besides a couple minor blisters, sunburned shoulders, and mild underarm chafing from the swim, I feel incredibly good. I took Monday off, but Tuesday I took Rana out for a slow 2 miles and everything seems to be holding together.

I got some sweet tan lines and I'm pretty sure that 4th toenail is going to fall off, but it was completely worth it.
I know I look slightly crazed in the next picture, but I'd like to remind you that I had just competed for 6 hours. I really just wanted to point out that, according to the poster, I had competed in the 23th Izena. I love Engrish!

I'm also happy to report that the ferry ride back was smooth like butter! So smooth that these guys were sleeping like babies:

I think Chris telling me to approach the day as "Amy's Big Day of Adventure" really helped. I was calm. I was focused. I knew I had the best husband in the world to come home to. He proved it once again. When I got home he surprised me with some gorgeous flowers and an ipod nano! Woohoo - marathon training here I come!


5 comments:

Katie said...

Proud of you Amy! gross feet...lol

Mandy Andrews said...

How I wish I could have been there with you for Bad Medicine. I was thinking of you. Great to read how it all went.

Anonymous said...

I knew you could handle it. So what's next????? miss you guys lots. mama price

moodycate said...

Amazing!

Kristina Patten said...

Girl! You are such a Superwoman! Your account of this day, made me feel like I was right there with you.

This is a crazy month for me too. I am having reservations about so many races, but after reading this post, I am renewed that I can handle it.

Good job!